As Thomas Wolfe so famously pointed out, you can't go home again, as Hermina (Hermina Guedes), the heroine of Karim Aïnouz's sophomore feature, LOVE FOR SALE (O CÉU DE SUELY), discovers. At 21, she is already a wife and mother and she has ventured back to her hometown of Iguatu in Brazil's Northeast with the son in tow. Ostensibly, she is visiting her grandmother and aunt while awaiting the arrival of her husband from São Paulo. It become very obvious, though, that her spouse is not coming. Left to her own devices, Hermina has to figure out what to do.
To support herself and her child, she sells raffle tickets for things like a bottle of whiskey. One of her childhood friends, Georgina (Georgina Castro) has become a prostitute and Hermina briefly toys with that idea, before hitting on a better plan. She will stage a raffle in which she is the prize. Promising one night of paradise to the winner and calling herself "Suely," she sets off on the venture. Her ultimate goal is to get enough money to leave town and start afresh.
There are several things that Hermina had not counted on, though, including the attentions of João (João Miguel), who has long harbored feelings for her, and the morality of the locals who looks askance at the women plying their trade but object to a raffle, in particular her own grandmother.
LOVE FOR SALE unfolds slowly and there are some tangential moments that the filmmaker includes that merely pad out the running time. Guedas, though, proves to be a very strong performer, holding the screen and making the audience care about her character, whose inchoate yearnings are sometimes mystifyingly obtuse. The audience never finds out why she wants to flee the town, even though she has the potential for a stable relationship with João. Still, the film succeeds more often than it fails and it does feature some stunning cinematography by Walter Carvalho (whose previous credits include CENTRAL STATION and CARANDIRÚ).
Hermila Guedes as Hermila in LOVE FOR SALE
Directed by Karim Aïnouz, Brazil/France/Germany, 2006; 90m